Study Notes on Linguistic and Semiotic Anthropology

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University of Toronto St. George
Christopher Watts

Gabrielle Ciceri Test notes 2 Semester Anthropology Linguistics & Semiotics Abstract concepts (time & love) are shaped by the language we speak and lead to culture. That each language creates a different way of looking at the world. Whorf hypothesis: language, culture and thought Benjamin Whorf (1897-1941) Strong Whorf hypothesis: Language determines thought Weak Whorf Hypothesis: Language influences thought Suggests that language determinesinfluences culture Problem: assumes that language and thought and culture can be separated Suggested Solution: Language, manifested as a living activity, happens in conjunction with, inseparably from, specific culturalsocial contexts Language as a symptom of social conditions Ex. a) of vocabulary & culture Note. Across languages same social context and meaning? Sarah is hot vs. Sarah feels warm Ex b) The Polynesian word (and concept) mana Ex. c) The word (and concept) love Although attraction and desire for another person are given in many ways by nature, the way we experience love and its relation to social life are given by nurture and history. The history of the word love --Ancient Greeks: eros and agape for love but both mean different things --Bourgeois love:he foundation of marriage and nuclear family unit, appears with the capitalist means of production -- appeared th in mid 15 century based on mobile wage labor which reduced the unit of reproduction to nuclear family --Marriage had been a matter of family alliances (arranged) but the shift to nuclear families weakened the role of arranged marriages -- people began to choose their families based on love This is when the word love came to mean I love you Conclusion: words like love a) express a feature of culture (how we desire another) b) are a symptom of social conditions this does not mean love is not real! Ex. d) Metaphor Social Identity and Language Sociolinguistics The study of language in social behavior Usually the focus is on language variation Language varieties These are popularly called languages, dialects, and accents, but these are not scientific concepts and cannot be distinguished apart from language ideology Language ideology includes ideas by the speakers about whether a variety is a language or a dialect. Language: varieties whose speakers have a state of their own or a religion different from the speakers of similar varieties Ex. Danish and Norwegian, Ukrainian and Russian Note. Sometimes the speakers of one language understand the other better than vice versa but mutual understanding is easier for both sides than between dialects. Ex. China Cantonese vs. Mandarin Dialects: varieties whose speakers are united in the same state with no separatist pretensions speak dialects of the same language. Ex. Cantonese, Fukinese, Mandaring: Chinese dialects Ilocana, Cebuano: Filipino dialects Foreign accents Impossible to lose accents after 11-14 years due to loss in brain plasticity Exception: varieties that a relatively similar English, German, Dutch, Swedish, Yiddish = Germanic languages Accents = objective language features + perception how people imagine foreign accents -- based on linguistic and nonlinguistic clues appearance etc. Amazon River: tribes there do not notice accents of the women who marry out into other societies (exogamous) Accent Labels (Indian Accent): social constructions based on history colonialism, Cold War and its aftermathas within regions like Indian there are many language varieties
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